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How I created my own Planner
and how I use it to get shit done
I'm kind of a planner addict. Every time I see a new one, with a new layout I haven't tried, I purchase it, and bring it home to add to my growing tower of planners. I'm constantly hoping that I will find one that clicks -- it will be perfect, and change my life, and I'll be the best version of myself! However, each planner I buy always seems to fall short of my lofty expectations. I know I am at fault for building up a tower of gently-used planners. I set them up to fail with expectations that they will change my life, and they never do, how can they?
The benefits of trying so many planners is that I began to learn what I liked--daily, vertical layouts--and what I hated--quotes, any very specific sections (gratitude, water tracker, etc). And after an experience with a nearly perfect one, I realized that with a blank notebook and a couple of lines, I could create perfect.
Now before we dive in to the real nitty gritty, my disclaimer is that this process is nothing special. It is similar to bullet journalling, with less structure. There's no index or future log or really anything other than what I need out of a planner, which is daily pages. If you set out to do this for yourself, you should absolutely make changes to create your own version of perfect!
The nearly perfect planner I tried was from Savor the Success, called the Daily Action Planner. I would recommend it to anyone looking for the benefits listed here without any custom work required.
This planner had a two page spread for each day: one side for notes and one side for action items. One side is lined for note-taking, with a small section for gratitude journalling at the bottom. The other side has four boxes: To-do list, Weeds (items you are dreading but need to be done), "Seeds" (items with growth potential), and a daily schedule. There were also weekly overview pages, with a section for delegation of each task.
Use the arrows to scroll through pictures of the layout and how I used the Daily Action Planner!
What I loved:
The two-page spread, one for notes and one for action items. I used the notes section every single day and it allowed me to be more present in meetings, and followup on items I may have missed before. I really loved taking notes down in my own handwriting, as it helped me remember what I needed to do next.
What I didn't love:
The specific sections, like for gratitude or delegation, just went unused. Not that I'm not grateful for things, I just don't really get into gratitude journaling. I feel like I'm bullshitting myself, and I'd rather just express gratitude to others than write it down for myself.
I didn't like the focus on splitting my tasks into "weeds" and "seeds," as I felt like it was asking me to focus on the negativity of the tasks I needed to accomplish, instead of just accomplishing them.
And I felt the idea of writing to-dos AND making a schedule was repetitive, so I ended up just letting my to-do list spill over into the schedule section.
And finally, because the section was split into 4 weeks, with each week grouped together, I had two wasted pages each week for Saturday and Sunday. I really only needed a planner for my day job, I don't write things like "laundry" or "dishes" (although maybe that is why they never get done?).
So when I finished the four weeks, I decided not to renew but instead, take what I liked and make it work!
I ordered these dotted blank notebooks from Amazon, with a simple spiral bound and transparent covers. Plus there was a set of two for hella cheap, so it was perfect for my experiment.
← Click the button on the left to purchase on Amazon (affiliate link)
I'm not one to get hard on paper quality, but I have been very happy with these notebooks so far. The bleed into other pages is minimal. The covers are completely transparent, so you would be able to see any designs on the front or back pages. I just left mine blank, but you could get real cute with it too!
I wanted to replicate exactly what I loved about the Savor Success planner, the two page spread. This is the reason I bought a spiral notebook instead of a hardcover, so it would truly lay flat when opened.
To design my pages, I freehand my lines (just follow the dots--sometimes they're a little wonky but never too bad) with a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner in black.
Click the button on the right to purchase on Amazon (affiliate link) →
The left page is for Notes, and right side is for action items. Here is my first attempt at a layout:
As you can see, I went over into the other sections with my to-do list nearly every single day. I think the reason for this is because I made my checkboxes so big, but with the dot grid it didn't make sense to me to make them any smaller! So I iterated:
I tried to make a section for my side-hustle to-dos, but I realized I just don't work on my side hustle in the same way as I do my every day work. Which brings me to my current, very simple layout:
Recently, my friend and workmate Charli made a video about her bullet journaling process. I really liked her monthly and weekly overview section, so I tried it out for the month of April:
But I started to lose interest quickly, and I didn't really get benefit from it. I think because I didn't have that page easily accessible, to flip back to each day. If I had a notebook with ribbons, or just made a damn bookmark, I could find more value in it. However, it makes sense, given my past planner preferences, that I do best when focusing on individual days, instead of weeks at a glance.
I had no idea I needed a note section each day, but most days I complete the page, and don't really need pages beyond that. Notes can turn into action items but for the most part, they are more abstract ideas or things I want to commit to memory, and writing it out by hand helps me do that.
If something larger happens, that I do need more room for, I simply flip the page and have a blank slate for more extensive notetaking, like I did after a book club meeting:
I use really simple checkboxes for things I have to do, including meetings, tasks, or subtasks.
If I have to cancel the item, I cross it out.
If I have to move it to the next day, I add an arrow.
Once I finish it, I cross the box.
My day is done when I've crossed all the boxes.
What I love about this method is I haven't locked myself into any frameworks, whether it's a pre-printed planner or even a large, bullet journal framework. I've added a simple structure to a blank notebook, and it adapts to be the exact planner I need it to be every day.
My plan is to keep trying new structures, adding and subtracting as I need to. I am looking for a lightweight way to track my sleep, the bed and wake times as well as the quality, and I will be actively looking for a way to incorporate that into this daily planner.
I will keep adding to this guide, so be sure to bookmark the page, though as a member of Get Your Shit Together, I will let you know when there are updates.
See you tomorrow for your next GYST lesson!